The city of Cortez is seeking volunteers for a new youth commission, set to start meeting in late July.
Management intern Peyton Heitzman first proposed the idea of a commission to the City Council in April, describing it as a chance for Cortez teens to learn leadership and civic duty by organizing events and service projects around town.
Since April, the city has been attempting to recruit high school students to serve on the commission through word of mouth and classroom presentations. The group has tentatively scheduled its first meeting for late July, but is still accepting applicants.
Several city governments in Colorado, including Durango, have youth commissions that serve as advisory boards to the City Council and organize one or two big events per year. In April, Heitzman said she envisioned the Cortez commission in a similar role, but on Friday she said much of the details are still up in the air.
“I’m trying to keep my hands off of it and let the students decide what works for them,” she said. “They’re the ones trying to juggle 10 different things at once.”
In May, Heitzman visited Southwest Open School and Montezuma-Cortez High School to give presentations on youth commissions in other towns, and to ask students to sign up for the one in Cortez. She said she didn’t get quite as enthusiastic a response as she’d hoped, since many students appeared to have “summer on their minds,” but she has since received five applications from local teens.
The application for the commission doesn’t list many requirements for volunteers, except that they must provide two references. Heitzman said she’s primarily looking for students with a passion for their town.
“We’re looking for students that are interested and passionate about serving the youth in the community,” she said. “And who have the time, of course.”
Fliers that Heitzman brought to several schools and put up on city property advertise the commission as an opportunity for members to learn about city government, make new friends and “bring the youth voice to the city.”
The commission’s first order of business, Heitzman said, will be to establish bylaws and a process for accepting new members. She said she plans for the group to start on its first projects in the 2018-2019 school year.
For now, Heitzman, library employee Alissa Baxter and police officer Jerry Sam will act as liaisons between the youth commission and the city government. The commission’s budget and source of funding also have yet to be determined. Heitzman said she would have more details after the first meeting.
Applications for the youth commission are available at City Hall and on the city of Cortez Facebook page.
This article was reposted on July 3 to correct the qualifications for youth commission volunteers (they do not need to live in Cortez) and the number of staff liaisons on the commission (Heitzman is one of three).